Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Franklin, [May 1745?]

To John Franklin

MS not found; reprinted from extract in Sparks, Works, VII, 16–17.

Philadelphia, [May ?], 17459

Our people are extremely impatient to hear of your success at Cape Breton.1 My shop is filled with thirty inquiries at the coming in of every post. Some wonder the place is not yet taken. I tell them I shall be glad to hear that news three months hence. Fortified towns are hard nuts to crack; and your teeth have not been accustomed to it. Taking strong places is a particular trade, which you have taken up without serving an apprenticeship to it. Armies and veterans need skilful engineers to direct them in their attack. Have you any? But some seem to think forts are as easy taken as snuff. Father Moody’s prayers look tolerably modest.2 You have a fast and prayer day for that purpose; in which I compute five hundred thousand petitions were offered up to the same effect in New England, which added to the petitions of every family morning and evening, multiplied by the number of days since January 25th,3 make forty-five millions of prayers; which, set against the prayers of a few priests in the garrison, to the Virgin Mary, give a vast balance in your favor.

If you do not succeed, I fear I shall have but an indifferent opinion of Presbyterian prayers in such cases, as long as I live. Indeed, in attacking strong towns I should have more dependence on works, than on faith;4 for, like the kingdom of heaven, they are to be taken by force and violence; and in a French garrison I suppose there are devils of that kind, that they are not to be cast out by prayers and fasting, unless it be by their own fasting for want of provisions. I believe there is Scripture in what I have wrote, but I cannot adorn the margin with quotations, having a bad memory, and no Concordance at hand; besides no more time than to subscribe myself, &c.

B. Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9Sparks printed this letter incomplete and dated it only “Philadelphia, 1745.” Smyth (Writings, II, 283) assigned the date March 10 on the basis of his interpretation of BF’s “ecclesiastical mathematics,” but this is clearly too early. BF printed the first news of the expedition’s departure from Boston, March 24, in the Gazette, April 12, and that of the arrival of most of the troops at Canso, the rendezvous, April 10, in the Gazette, May 2. Inquirers at BF’s shop could hardly have begun to “wonder the place is not yet taken” much before the middle of May at the earliest. Actually Louisbourg’s capitulation took place on June 17 and was announced to the Pennsylvania Council on July 11. Pa. Col. Recs., IV, 764.

1See above, p. 14.

2Rev. Samuel Moody (1676–1747) of York, Maine, although “much impair’d by old Age,” accompanied the expedition which his neighbor from Kittery Point, William Pepperrell (1696–1759), commanded. After the capitulation he preached the first Protestant sermon ever delivered at Louisbourg (“the citadel of Popish darkness”). Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, IV, 356–65.

3This was the date on which the Massachusetts General Court approved Shirley’s proposal for the expedition. Charles H. Lincoln, ed., Correspondence of William Shirley (N. Y., 1912), I, 169–70.

4Moody and Pepperrell were both enthusiastic supporters of the Great Awakening. George Whitefield preached at Portsmouth to the “Gentlemen bound on the Expedition” while it was being organized. Pa. Gaz., April 12, 1745.

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